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Your Guide to Ad Hoc Project Management

Ad hoc project management sounds intimidating, and sometimes it can be. However, with this guide it’s as easy as 1–2–3.

Ruum Team

Stefan Ritter

March 21, 2019

4 min read

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There’s a problem at work and only you can fix it. Sound familiar? It starts off as simple task that snowballs into a dozen tasks involving four different departments and more than six other colleagues? Congratulations! You have evolved into an ad hoc project manager. This is how most people unwittingly get roped into the gruelling world of project management.

What is an Ad Hoc Project Manager?

As a freshly-minted ad hoc project manager, you are now straddled with the responsibility to carry out a new and uncommon business task; you are tasked with tackling an unforeseen business problem. The problem can present itself as: an unaccounted for drop in market share, a customer escalation, or even a last-minute board meeting.

Just like a classical Project Manager, you are now required to help guide the team, keep the project on track, meet budget goals and deadlines. Your are also tasked with facilitating conversations with all involved parties and stakeholders.

An ad hoc project manager is also somebody who doesn’t typically have managerial duties but is rather a person who is assigned a leadership/ownership role within the ad hoc project context due to their centrality with all the involved parties or simply because she/he was amongst the first respondents to the business “emergency”. So again, we extend our congratulations!

What is an ad hoc project?

Ad hoc projects are usually developed when an unprecedented challenge or problem arises that cannot be solved using standard or predefined business procedures. Those problems are usually cross-departmental and involve several stakeholders from within and outside the organization involving several departments such as marketing and sales, product development, customer service and support, maintenance, legal…etc.

Collaboration in those instances becomes a necessity, often involving the formation of remote teams. The suddenness of said-projects, also means that they, by nature, have a short or temporary lifespan.

You will become in charge of an emergency task-force, which sadly must disband soon after a resolution has been formed/reached.

The task-force is usually unruly — and since it consists of a makeshift squad of rogue operators, possesses none of the core features of successful teams. Additionally, there’s definitely no time or any of the precursors to forming one. It’s an all-hands on deck approach until the ship is no longer sinking, the fire is out, and the “fat lady is singing”.

Exhaustive studies have been conducted and op-eds have been penned, which delve into the minuscule details of how to best manage teams and create a conducive work environment that promotes team harmony, productivity and creativity (our twitter feed features all the recent developments!). However, those guides don’t address the urgent needs of, you, the newly appointed ad hoc project manager. Fear not! as experienced ad hoc project managers, we took the liberty of formulating a a quick and easy guide for you to follow.

Managing an ad hoc team requires three (easy) steps:

You have to manage the rogue team and this involves three distinct yet interlocked processes that are rooted in digital communication and often rely heavily on email correspondence (there’s a foolproof way to do email communication and you should start following it religiously).

As an ad hoc project manager, you will need to:

Orchestrate

The orchestration stage consists of three phases: 1. assemble the team, 2. assign tasks and deadlines, and 3. agree on deliverables.

You will need to assemble the team, looping in stakeholders, finding out who can facilitate and contribute. This step requires addressing the “who, where, what, why and how” of the problem. This step would then move into the planning phase of the orchestration where tasks are listed and divided amongst the team, deadlines are negotiated and set. This should optimistically be followed by swift and prompt execution.

Collaborate

Now you need to make sure that everybody works together because all tasks are interlocked and you want to avoid any bottlenecks and dependencies that could basically turn your project status from “managed” into a “free-falling disaster”.

You will require a shared canvas, where you can collaborate on solving the problem remotely. Basically, you will need to digitally work alongside each other.

Your chosen platform should also serve as a place where work/deliverables can be reviewed, edited and expanded by multiple players and contributors. You also need to create a digital and emotional safe space where problems are discussed, resolutions can be reached, and more importantly documented. Our ProTip, don’t do this in email.

Report

All projects need a log and a written report. As an ad hoc project manager you are no exception. You will need to maintain meticulous insights and group your findings from the various tasks in one place where the reasoning behind your (and the group’s) decision/resolution is clearly demonstrated and tracked. This report also acts as a documentation of the process which the big bosses would want to see to give you, your MVP award, gold star, pat on the shoulder… or a permanent project manager position.

Ad hoc project management might seem like a daunting sisyphus-esque task but is often a golden hidden opportunity for genius to strike. It enables employees to step up, leaders to shine and departments to work together. So the next time you find yourself facing a snowballing problem at work… breathe and dive right in because you’re now an ad hoc project manager. Again, congratulations!

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